News Roundup for March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020

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J Street in the News

#SkipAIPAC comes from new generation of Jewish activists, Washington Post
“‘What we said was: ‘There’s another way to be pro-Israel, you don’t have to support whatever the [Israeli] government does,’’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the group J Street, which formed in 2009 as a devoutly liberal but still pro-Zionist alternative to AIPAC. ‘Younger groups are saying: ‘You don’t have to be pro-Israel, you should be pro-human rights, and everyone should have a state.’ ’ Ben-Ami said the sharper ethos of the new groups is the result of Israel’s continued and expanded settlements and other developments, including the increased alignment between the Israeli government and the Republican Party — even as 65 percent of U.S. Jews identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, according to an August Gallup poll.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Two Seats Away From Majority With 90 Percent of Votes Counted, Times of Israel
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu appeared poised for a stunning electoral victory Tuesday morning, though questions remained over whether he had enough support to form a coalition, as votes were counted following Monday’s national vote. With some 90 percent percent of ballots tallied, Likud held 29.35% of the votes, equal to around 36 Knesset seats, which could represent the party’s strongest ever showing as Israelis looked to end a deadlock that has left the country without a fully functioning government for over a year. Top rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party was trailing with 26.34% of the votes, representing some 32 seats, which would be the relatively new faction’s worst showing in three tries. The non-final tallies gave ultra-Orthodox Shas and UTJ ten and seven seats, respectively, while religious right-wing Yamina was sitting on about six seats, placing the right-wing bloc on 59 seats, two seats short of a 61-seat majority.

Bernie Sanders called AIPAC a platform for ‘bigotry.’ The group is proving his point, Washington Post
Dana Milbank writes, “Bernie Sanders was right to skip AIPAC. The current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination would be the first Jewish president. He once lived in Israel. But he refused to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference this week because, he said, the pro-Israel lobby has become a platform for those who ‘express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.’ He added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “reactionary racist.” AIPAC, and Netanyahu, seemed intent on proving Sanders’s point.”

Israel’s Election Results Usher in a Black Day for Israeli Democracy, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “It isn’t just the center-left that lost on Monday. A victory for defendant Netanyahu is a defeat for the rule of law, and for every Israeli who wants to live in a democratic country governed by law, in which nobody is above the law. This is a black day for everyone who sought to put the nightmare of Netanyahu’s years in power, which were characterized by incitement, division and racism, behind us.”


Again likely kingmaker, Liberman vows to do everything to prevent 4th elections, Times of Israel
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman vowed Tuesday to do “everything” to prevent fourth elections, as emerging results indicated his party could again be in the kingmaker position with seven seats.

Arab Alliance’s ‘Historic’ Gains Overshadowed by Netanyahu’s Surge, Haaretz
As of early noon Tuesday and with 90 percent of the vote counted, the Joint List is set maintain its position as the third largest party, with 15 seats, two more than in the outgoing Knesset. But the excitement over the party strengthening was overshadowed by the possibility that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may finally succeed in forming a government, as his right-wing bloc was predicted to win 59 seats, just two shy of a majority.

Gantz tells faithful to wait for final results after exit polls show Likud gains, Times of Israel
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said early Tuesday that he would continue to fight, as exit polls predicted his centrist party falling several seats behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in Monday’s national election, eliciting shock and disappointment among his supporters.

Likud Threatens Gantz Party Lawmaker: Defect or We Will Release Embarrassing Tapes, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is threatening Kahol Lavan lawmaker Omer Yankelevich that if she will not defect to a Likud-led coalition, more embarrassing recordings by her party’s former strategic advisor will be released to the media.

Downcast Labor-Gesher-Meretz blames Blue and White for projected poor showing, Times of Israel
Labor-Gesher-Meretz chairman Amir Peretz on Monday blamed Blue and White’s “irresponsible” campaign for its projected poor showing of six or seven Knesset seats in Monday’s elections, saying the centrist alliance “turned on us.”

Israelis in quarantine due to coronavirus exposure vote at special polling locations, JTA
Sixteen special polling places opened in outdoor tents across the country on Monday. As of 4:30 p.m., more than half of the some 5,600 quarantined voters had voted. Due to the large demand, the special voting places were kept open an extra two hours until 7 p.m.

Likud says talks underway with center-left ‘deserters’ to boost bloc to 61 seats, Times of Israel
With exit polls and a partial vote count following Monday’s elections showing the Likud party strengthened but falling short of the 61 seats required to form a Knesset majority, Likud MKs and a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they would be looking to bring in “deserters” from other parties to make up the shortfall.

Opinion and Analysis

Elizabeth Warren: Trump’s Middle East peace plan is a disaster. I’ve got a plan for that, JTA
Elizabeth Warren writes, “I will welcome the Palestinian General Delegation back to Washington, because we cannot advance peace when we have closed our channels of communication. I will resume aid to the Palestinians that the Trump Administration has cut off and place greater emphasis on relieving the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, because we cannot sustain peace without a future that brings greater freedom, prosperity and security to the Palestinian people. I will reopen the U.S. mission in Jerusalem to the Palestinians and make clear that in a two-state agreement both parties should be able to have their capitals in Jerusalem.”

The Night They Tore Old Israel Down – and Seven More Comments on Netanyahu’s Stunning Triumph, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a stunning victory in Monday’s elections, the sweetest and potentially most momentous in his long and illustrious career. His triumph, despite the albatross of three criminal indictments hanging around his neck, is undeniably stupendous. He has fully justified his reputation as the all-time master magician, if not supreme sorcerer, of Israeli politics.”

Netanyahu back from brink with big election gain; now two court battles loom, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “The Prime minister out-campaigned Blue and White rival Gantz, reasserting his ‘King Bibi’ credentials. Will he prove as successful in the legal battles that lie ahead?”

Israeli Arabs, It’s Time to Play the Political Game Till the End, Haaretz
Salman Masalha writes, “The Joint List has to think bigger, and for Arab citizens that means building bridges with the wider public among the Jewish majority, who are ready to cooperate for the sake of joint goals for all Israeli citizens.”

Could the Joint List rise as Israel’s left-wing vanguard?, +972 Mag
Edo Konrad writes, “With consensus on annexation among the center and right in third election, the Zionist left will have to radically rethink its mission.”

Netanyahu’s Dream of 61 Seats Spells Certain Danger for Rule of Law, Haaretz
Aluf Benn writes, “A victory for the right-wing bloc will permanently cripple the rule of law in Israel, under the guise of ‘judicial reform’ and ‘reining in the High Court of Justice.’”